Can a naturally occurring brain hormone transform an introvert into the life of the party? Israeli and U.S. researchers seem to think so.
They ran a small test using oxytocin–the so-called love hormone–on 27 adult men who received the hormone or a placebo via nasal spray. The subjects were then required to complete an empathy accuracy test to gauge whether they picked up on the thoughts or feelings of others. The results indicated that oxytocin improved the ability to empathize among the shy or reserved group.
The London Telegraph explains:
…less socially proficient participants performed significantly better on oxytocin, with their empathetic powers performance identical to that of the more outgoing participants.
Prof. Jennifer Bartz, one of the study authors, added that the data contradicts conventional wisdom that oxytocin improves everyone’s ability to be more understanding of others: “Instead, oxytocin appears to be helpful only for those who are less socially proficient.” She also noted that more oxytocin research is required, especially in connection with helping persons with autism.
The findings were published in the Psychological Science journal.
Oxytocin should in no way be confused with the notorious OxyContin pain killer.